2737. Who Should Be Baptized?

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Who Should Be Baptized?

No. 2737-47:349. A Sermon Delivered On A Thursday Evening, In The Summer Of 1859, By C. H. Spurgeon, At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.

A Sermon Intended For Reading On Lord’s Day, July 28, 1901.

If you believe with all your heart, you may. {Ac 8:37}

1. It is not my custom to preach what people commonly call “baptizing sermons.” It is very seldom that I even mention the subject of baptism in my preaching, for I find that many of my hearers learn the scriptural teaching concerning it without much help from me. Of those who have come to unite with us in church fellowship, a very large proportion consists of people who have searched out the truth on this matter for themselves, and could in no way trace their alteration in sentiment to any remark of mine, but they had seen the ordinance clearly revealed in Holy Scripture. This is a method of arriving at the truth which I greatly prefer to any instruction imparted by myself; for, in the case of people divinely taught like this, I know that their faith will “not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” I refused, on one occasion, to go to Ireland when invited to do so by a brother, who gave, as the reason why he wished me to go, that by going there I should greatly increase the Baptist denomination. “No,” I said, “I would not go across the street, much less across the sea, merely to make people Baptists” Wherever I may be, I endeavour, as in the sight of God, so to deal with men as to bring them to Christ, leaving the Spirit of God to take them deeper into things of Christ, and reveal them to them.

2. Yet I dare not be altogether silent concerning believers’ baptism. If I would make full proof of my ministry, and preach the whole gospel as it is contained in the New Testament, I must proclaim the truth with regard to that great ordinance of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he has himself put in such an important position by coupling it with faith and salvation: “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” Still, let me assure you, dear friends, that I do not introduce this topic in any controversial spirit, for I would abhor that; but only because I feel it to be “the burden of the Lord” that presses on me; and, since it is a part of God’s Holy Word, I must preach on it. In the excellent and estimable Presbyterian Church, before the administration of the Lord’s supper, it is usual to have a sermon for the purpose of what is called “fencing the table.” That fencing is a great part of the duty of the Christian minister in many other matters besides the communion. All Bible doctrines, all God’s promises, and both Christ’s ordinances need to be fenced. In the fencing of the Lord’s table, the principal topic of the preacher is, — Who are the fit subjects for the reception of the Lord’s supper? Who may draw near, and partake of the symbolic bread and wine, and who may not approach it?

3. Now, just as the communion table should be fenced, so also should the baptismal pool, so should the promises of God, and so should those great and glorious doctrines which are the essentials of our faith; and I believe that the only fence which is proper and scriptural is what is given in our text, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” If a man says to me, “May I consider myself to be one of the elect?” I reply, “God certainly has an elect people, but you have no right to consider yourself as one of them unless you believe with all your heart.” Then there is the doctrine of effectual calling; and if anyone asks me if he is effectually called, I answer, “If you believe with all your heart, then you certainly have an interest in this glorious doctrine of God’s grace.” Then, with regard to the doctrine of redemption by the blood of Christ, which is the basis and foundation of all our hopes, I see no warrant for telling any man that he is redeemed until I can get him to give a full and satisfactory reply to this enquiry, “Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ with all your heart?” It seems to me that the doctrines of the gospel have no truly comforting message for any man until he believes in Christ with all his heart.

4. So also it is with the promises of God. They are rich, delightful, spiritual fare which he has spread on the table of his banqueting house; but no one, who does not believe in Christ with all his heart, has any right to lay hold on the “very great and precious promises” which God has recorded for the comfort of his own people. I know that there are some loving and gracious invitations which are addressed to the sinner; and I thank God that it is so; but I also know that the sinner can never experience their sweetness until he believes in Jesus. I am sure that he cannot comply with the invitation except by believing with all his heart, and that he must be a stranger to the gracious promises and encouraging invitations until he comes, and puts his trust in “Jesus only.”

5. I am fully persuaded that it is the same with the ordinances of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord’s table is not, on any pretence, to be approached by those who do not believe in him with all their heart. “Away, you profane!” should be the cry of the Christian minister when he is about to dispense the sacred emblems. Believer in Christ, you are heartily welcome; you have a right to come to the table of your Lord if you believe in him with all your heart. Whoever and whatever you may be, the only barrier which we can rightly set before you bears on it this inscription, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” Indeed, if you believe, there is no barrier, so come and welcome; we dare not set up before the table of our Lord any barrier which God himself has not put there, so we invite to it all who have believed in Jesus; but we solemnly warn all those who come and partake of this ordinance, without faith in Christ, that they are eating and drinking condemnation to themselves, not discerning the Lord’s body, for no one has the right to approach his table except those who, with a true heart, believe in Christ, and in him alone.

6. It is equally so with regard to the other ordinance of believers’ baptism. Whatever opinions different men may hold concerning it, the Word of God must stand, and it is our duty to preach all that is revealed to us there. One point that is very plain is that no one has a right to this ordinance until he is a believer in Christ. I am astonished that any Christians should ever have imagined that this rule could be relaxed in any case, and it has often puzzled me that all Calvinists do not see that baptism must belong to the people of God, and to them only. Do we not rightly teach that the doctrines of Scripture are for the comfort and instruction of the believer; that the promises of God are, as a rule, for the believer; that, in fact, the whole plan of God’s dispensing of grace is on behalf of the believer, and the believer only? Then I cannot understand on what basis any solitary exception should be made to the divine rule, and that it should be imagined that this solemn ordinance should be left open to all the world, — not merely to all the intelligent inhabitants of the world, but also be left so open that even an unconscious infant might become the subject of it.

7. Not only is that a convincing argument with me; but, as I understand it, the whole gospel of Christ is addressed to intelligent individuals. I cannot see anything that I could accomplish if I were called on to preach to an unconscious person. The gospel appeals to men’s understanding and heart; but if all their mental powers are in a dormant condition, I do not see what I, as a preacher, can do in such a case, or what bearing the gospel itself has on such people. I am amazed that an unconscious babe should be made the partaker of an ordinance which, according to the plain teaching of the Scriptures, requires the conscious acquiescence and complete heart-trust of the recipient. Very few, if any, would argue that infants ought to receive the Lord’s supper; but there is no more scriptural warrant for bringing them to the one ordinance than there is for bringing them to the other.

8. The Church of England Catechism is quite right when it says that repentance and faith are required of people to be baptized, but its practice is not in accordance with that scriptural teaching. The godfather and godmother of the child, when they bring him to the font, promise in his name that he shall repent and believe, and that he shall renounce the devil and all his works; this is more than the child himself could promise to do, and more than I could promise to do; or, if I did say so, I would be a liar to God and to my own soul, since it would be utterly impossible for me to fulfil such a promise. The theory of the Church is that this promise of repentance and faith is like the paper money that we have in circulation; it is true that it is not the current coin of repentance and faith; nevertheless, it is valid, the promise that the child shall repent and believe is sufficient, — which seems to me to be a strange figment for any rational creature to endorse. I will state the matter like this: suppose that there is a king who has absolute dominion over his subjects, and suppose that there is a certain work to be done, say, the replacement of glass in a window which has been broken. Further, imagine that there are two workmen, to both of whom the king gives the command, “Set to work, and repair that window.” One of them says, “I will not”; the other says, “I will,” yet immediately hangs cobwebs over the broken places. It appears to me that there is not much difference in the disobedience in the two cases; and it is very much the same with those who positively refuse to obey what they know to be the plain commands of God’s Word concerning baptism and those who practically disobey those commands by substituting the sprinkling of babies for the immersion of believers, and then bringing in the fiction of sponsorship to support their alteration of the divine ordinance. To my mind, it is a vain attempt to evade compliance with a plain and simple command, and is therefore worse than affirmed disobedience would have been. I can understand the position of a man who does not, in his own conscience, feel that this is an ordinance which is limited to the believer; but I cannot comprehend the consistency of one who says that repentance and faith are necessary before baptism, and who then takes the unconscious infant into his arms, sprinkles a few drops of water on his brow, and then declares that he has become a child of God, and an heir of the kingdom of heaven! That seems to me to be not only the height of absurdity, but to be also a heinous sin in the sight of the Most High God.

9. I repeat what I have already said, that the fencing of both Christ’s ordinances can be accomplished by the condition laid down in our text, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” I cannot thrust my brothers and sisters from the Lord’s table if they believe in him with all their heart, nor can I keep back from baptism any child who believes in Jesus with all his heart. But, on the other hand, though he is grey-headed, and venerable, if he is not a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, it is not my business, as a servant of the Lord, to alter my King’s laws so as to please him; but, rather, to say to him, “Stand back until you are in a fit state to obey my Master’s commands. You are not yet entitled to share the privileges that belong to God’s family. Until you have believed in Jesus, and so are proved to be one of his children, I cannot admit you as a partaker of either of the ordinances which he has ordained.”

10. Now I am going to practically carry out the teaching of the text by briefly and affectionately addressing our dear friends who are about to be baptized. The observance of this ordinance will awaken, in many of our minds, memories of similar services in the past. It brings to my memory a river in Cambridgeshire, with a great assembly of spectators on the banks, and a youth walking into the midst of the flowing stream, and there giving himself up, spirit, soul, and body, to the service of his Master. It recalls to me the hour when I publicly affirmed my allegiance to the King of kings; and I can join with John Newton in saying to my dear Lord and Master, —

    Many days have pass’d since then,
    Many changes I have seen;
    Yet have been upheld till now;
    Who could hold me up but thou?

Perhaps others, who have “put on Christ” like this, may be cheered, and refreshed, and stirred up by the address I shall now give to those who will presently enter the baptismal pool.

11. I. In explaining the text, we will take it almost word by word; and, first, dear friends, note THE IMPORTANCE OF PERSONAL FAITH: “If you believe with all your heart, you may” be baptized.

12. Have you believed in Christ for yourselves? It is useless for you to say that you are the sons of pious parents, the daughters of godly fathers and mothers; unless you yourselves believe in Jesus, you will be cast down to hell just as surely as will the ungodly descendants of wicked men and women. The faith of your parents may be blessed by God as the means by which you will be brought to Christ; but if you are not brought to him, all the faith of others cannot avail for your salvation. Though you should have Abraham to be your father, and Sarah to be your mother, even then you could not be saved without your own personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. How apt we are, who occupy the family pew in the house of God, and who from our infancy have been brought up to hear the Word preached, to imagine that there is a kind of family holiness which may avail for us all; and to conceive that, because our parents were Christians, we also are saved! Yet it is not so; there is no such thing as a Christian family, sufficient to include you at the last great day, unless you who belong to it are yourselves Christians; and there is no such thing as a Christian nation unless the individuals, who compose that nation, are all Christians.

13. Men are always prone to talk about religion collectively; but, beloved, remember that you will have to enter heaven one by one if you go there at all. “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” No eyes except your own will avail you in looking to the cross, or in weeping over your sin. No other heart’s repentance can take the place of your own heart’s godly sorrow from sin. No lips but your own can breathe the penitential prayer on your behalf, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” You must be brought to feel your own need of a Saviour, you must yourselves be enabled by the Holy Spirit to put your trust in Jesus, or else you will as surely be lost as if you had been born in a Hottentot hut, of parents who neither knew nor loved the Lord.

14. Personal religion is an essential prerequisite to admission into the Church of Christ, or to either of the ordinances which he has instituted. I shudder when I see men, who are not Christians, taking for themselves the promises that are addressed to believers. I have heard a man say of a sermon, which was meant for the comfort of the children of God, “Oh, how sweet it was to me!” whereas he was eating stolen sweets to which he had no right. “If you believe with all your heart,” you may suck the honey out of the promises. If you believe, you may walk to and fro in the spiritual Canaan, from Dan to Beersheba, for it is all your own. From the hill-tops to the valleys’ utmost depths, all is yours; yes, from the very centre of heaven to its circumference, or to its farthest limits, all is your own possession. But if you do not believe, your pedigree avails you nothing; your godly parentage shall not be of any advantage for you in the last great day; no, nor even now, for the wrath of God rests on you because you have not believed in his Son, Jesus Christ, whom he has sent into the world as the one and only Saviour of sinners.

15. Put your hands over your hearts, then, my dear brothers and sisters, and search and see whether you do really believe for yourselves personally. Suppose the Ethiopian eunuch had said, “I myself do not believe in Jesus, but my father and mother did,” Philip would have replied, “Their faith cannot avail for you; only, ‘if you believe with all your heart, you may’ be baptized.” Religion is a personal matter, the ordinances of Christ must be observed by believers only according to their individual standing in him. It is of no use for you to talk about your parents being in the covenant of grace; are you in the covenant? Can you say, with David, “He has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure?” “Do you believe in the Son of God?” For if you do not, then we cannot admit you into fellowship with his people, and we cannot permit you to be baptized in his name.

16. II. Note, next, THE GREAT PREREQUISITE FOR BAPTISM: “If you believe with all your heart, you may” be baptized.

17. So the question each one of you has to answer is this, — Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? “Well,” one says, “I try to serve the Master as best I can.” I am glad to hear it; and if your service is the result of faith in Christ, I bless God for it; but if it is not based on faith, and is not the fruit of faith, it is worthless. All the service of unbelieving men is only whitewashed sin. It may look like virtue; but it is only a base counterfeit, not the genuine coin. Again I ask you the question, — Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?

18. “Well,” says another, “I accept all the doctrines of grace, beginning with predestination, and ending with final perseverance; I am as orthodox a believer as ever lived.” That is not all I want to know from you. Faith in Christ is not the reception of a dry, dead orthodoxy; to believe in Jesus is not simply to be a sixteen-ounces-to-the-pound Calvinist; saving faith is not the mere reception of a creed or form of any kind. To believe is to trust, and no man truly believes — in the New Testament meaning of the word, — until he is brought to trust in Christ alone, and takes his whole religion on trust, relying not on what he sees, nor on what he is, but on what is revealed in God’s Word; — not on what he is, or can be, or shall be, nor on what he does or can do, nor on what he feels or does not feel; — but relying entirely on what Christ has done, is doing, and shall yet do. Now, dear brothers and sisters, do you believe like this in the Lord Jesus Christ with all your hearts? Although you have on you the attire of candidates for baptism, I entreat you to retire from this pool if you do not believe in Christ. I think I see a tear in your eye, and I hear you say, “Blessed be God that, with many imperfections, I can still look up to Christ, and say, —

    Nothing in my hand I bring:
    Simply to thy cross I cling;
    Naked, come to thee for dress;
    Helpless, look to thee for grace;
    Foul, I to the fountain fly;
    Wash me, Saviour, or I die.”

Well, dear friend, if you can truly make that declaration, however feeble your faith may be, this ordinance is for you, the communion table is for you, the doctrines of the gospel are yours, the promises of Christ are yours, yes, Christ himself is yours; and Christ is all, therefore “all things are yours; and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”

19. In your baptism, it should be your goal to please God; “but without faith it is impossible to please him.” How can what is not pleasing to him be considered as the observance of one of his ordinances? But “if you believe with all your heart, you may” observe it, and your observance will be acceptable in his sight. If Christ is the unsupported pillar of your hope, the solitary buttress and prop of your trust, if your faith really and truly says, “I rely on nothing but Jesus for salvation,” come here, come and welcome. “Come in, you blessed of the Lord; why do you stand outside?”

20. Some years ago, a man came to me, and said that he wished to be baptized. I asked him this question, “Why do you wish that?” He answered, “Because I want to be a Christian.” “But,” I enquired, “do you think that baptism will make you a Christian?” “Yes,” he said. “Then,” I replied, “you are grossly mistaken. We baptize no one but those who profess to be already saved through faith in Jesus. Baptism can have no possible effect in helping you on the road to heaven.” The man seemed to be utterly staggered at that idea, for he had somehow gotten into his head the notion that there was something efficacious in the ordinance itself; and when I tried to explain to him that the Scriptures contain no warrant for such a thought as that, and, therefore, that we would not baptize any who did not believe themselves to be already saved, the man went away staggered. Yet I hope that he also went away resolved to ask himself such solemn questions as these, “Why is it that I am not a Christian? Why is it that I am not a follower of Christ, and that the minister therefore refuses to baptize me, urging me first to seek the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and after that to attend to baptism, but not before?” God forbid that any of you, dear friends, should for a single moment think that there is any saving virtue in the water in that baptistery! If you were baptized in the River Jordan itself, what could that avail you? Though the waters of baptism flowed down from the Garden of Eden, they could not wash away the stain of sin; nothing but the blood of Jesus can do that. He who has been plunged in that —

    Fountain fill’d with blood,
    Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins,

may also be plunged into the baptismal pool; when anyone believes, let him be baptized. But if you do not believe, stand back; this is a sacred circle into which no unbeliever can be permitted to enter. “If you believe,” come here, and confess your faith as your Lord ordained; but if you do not believe, take heed lest you destroy your own soul by meddling with that ordinance which is not for you in your present condition.

21. III. Now, thirdly, note THE KIND OF FAITH THAT IS MENTIONED HERE: “If you believe with all your heart.”

22. There is a great deal of difference between faith and faith. One kind is the faith of the head, and another is the faith of the heart. Some men have all their religion in their head; like poor, miserable, poverty-stricken students, they confine their religion to their head, and there they let it feed on some dry thought or empty speculation; but the faith of the true Christian occupies the best parlour of the heart. It has its citadel in the innermost part of his being, it dwells at home in his innermost soul.

23. The devil himself has the faith of the head; he believes, and trembles. He is as orthodox as many very learned divines; as far as the mere statement of theology is concerned, I could trust the devil to draw up a creed. I believe he is thoroughly sound, and that he knows a great deal more about God’s Word than most of us do. He can quote it correctly when he pleases, although he is also adept at misquoting it for his own purposes. I do not think that the devil ever was an Arminian, or that he ever will be one; he understands the doctrines of grace, at least in his head, too well for that. In one respect, he is better than some Antinomians, {a} for they believe and presume, while he believes and trembles. Still, Satan and Antinomians never would be very great enemies. I wonder that they talk about the devil tempting them; I believe that they tempt themselves, or that they tempt the devil to tempt them if he really does tempt them at all.

24. Yet the devil hates much that he believes with his head. There is, for example, the doctrine of election. “Ah!” he says, “I am not able to deny the truth of that doctrine, yet I hate it, for I know that I am not one of the elect.” It is the same with redemption; the devil says, “I loathe that doctrine. I know that Christ has redeemed his people with his blood, but I am not one of them. The cross of Christ is glorious, and I am obliged to acknowledge its power, for I have felt it often, and I am yet to feel it more and more; but I hate the cross, for it crushes me, and takes multitudes of my subjects away from me. I know that Jesus is the Son of God; I wish he was not, and if I could I would tear him from his throne, and cast him out of his dominions” So, you see, the devil believes with his head much that he hates with his heart.

25. Faith in Christ is never true unless it is the faith of the heart, unless the heart as well as the head gives assent to it, unless the truth is not only believed, but is also loved. Do you, dear friends, believe the truth with your hearts? Are you not only convinced of it, but is it your joy and delight? Do you know that you are a sinner, and do you mourn over that sad fact? Do you know this truth from experience? Do you also know Christ as your Saviour? Have you received him into your innermost hearts as a possession of vital importance to you? Do you appreciate his presence, and rejoice to have him always with you? Do you know that the blood of Jesus blots out sin? Have you learned that truth, not merely as a scriptural doctrine, but as a matter of heart-felt experience inasmuch as your sins have been blotted out like this? Do you believe, in your heart, that the Holy Spirit is the Sanctifier? Do you heartily believe that truth, and therefore do you pray, “Lord, renew and sanctify me by your gracious Spirit in the inner man?” If not, whatever faith you may think you have does not entitle you to baptism, much less to heaven; therefore, stand back. If your head alone is full of what is sound, and right, and true, and your heart is empty of faith in Christ, and love for God and for his truth, stand back from that baptistery, for you must not intrude into the place which is reserved for the followers of Christ.

26. Philip said to the eunuch, “If you believe with all your heart, you may be baptized.” I am afraid that some who have been baptized in that pool have not believed with all their heart. They said they did, but I question whether it was true concerning all of them. And, beloved, if we honestly test ourselves, some of us will have grave cause to enquire whether we have any right to the ordinance of believers’ baptism. Do you, friend, believe in Christ with all your heart? Christ will have all of your heart or none of it; he will never be content to have part, and to leave the devil to occupy the rest. True believers will give all their heart to Christ, even though they cannot yet get possession of all of it for him. The fact is, it is very much the same with the believer’s heart as it was with the Israelites in Canaan; all the land belonged to them, yet they could not get possession of it all for a while; they had to fight with the Canaanites and to drive them out. Now, candidates for baptism, can you say from your heart that you give up everything to Christ? Can each one of you say to your Lord, —

    The dearest idol I have known,
       Whate’er that idol be,
    Help me to tear it from thy throne,
       And worship only thee?

Can you give up all — life, body, soul, health, wealth, or talent, — can you give it all up to Christ? If you cannot, you have not believed in him with all your heart; there is some part that you have kept back. If you believe with all your heart, your surrender will be of all your heart. “Oh!” one says, “I desire to give it all to Christ.” Then, my brother, you have given it all to him; you have really done so in effect, and it will be your privilege practically to carry out your wish by daily making a full surrender of yourself to him.

27. Note just one other aspect of the text. Do you have any other confidence besides what you have in Christ? Is there even a little self-reliance in your heart with regard to salvation, or a little reliance on your own good works or on any ceremonies that you can observe? Then I must say to you, “Stand back from that baptistery until you believe in Christ with all your heart, and can say to him, —

    All my trust in thee is stayed,
    All my help from thee I bring.”

If you can truthfully say that, come and welcome; if not, stand back. Here I can find comfort for myself; for, whatever I cannot say, I can truly say that I believe in Jesus with all my heart; I have nothing else to trust in. Others may rely on their good works, but I have none on which I can trust. Some may rely on their prayers, but I have to weep because mine are so few and so feeble. Some may rest on ceremonies, but I have often proved the futility of even the best of them; at the Lord’s table itself, I dare not trust in any blessing received through the emblems of my Saviour’s broken body and shed blood, my reliance must be on him alone. My own strength is perfect weakness; I cannot trust in it, or in anything but Christ. Can you not say the same, dear brothers and sisters? Then you may go down into the water without fear; but if you do not believe with all your heart, stand back from that baptistery.

28. In closing my discourse, I would very affectionately ask all my hearers this question, leaving it to the Holy Spirit to apply it to your heart, — Does it not seem, from this passage, that faith is necessary before baptism; and that, if this eunuch had not believed in Jesus, Philip would not have baptized him? “I speak as to wise men; judge what I say.” If any of you are unbelievers, do not venture to think that, in your present state, you can be baptized in the scriptural manner; but if you are believers, and have not been baptized, let me leave it to your consciences whether you think you are right in neglecting this ordinance of Christ. That is a matter for you seriously to think of; it rests between your Saviour and your own soul; I pray the Lord to guide us all to a right decision. If we are wrong, may he set us right; and if you are wrong, may he set you right! The prayer of a certain scholar was a very wise one, and I commend it to you. In a great dispute in which he was engaged, he was observed to be frequently writing, so someone said to him, “May I look at your notes?” “Certainly,” he replied. When the notes were examined, it was found that they simply consisted of the words, “More light, Lord, more light!” I think that is a request which we may present for many of our brethren, and certainly for ourselves, “More light, Lord, more light!”

{a} Antinomian: One who maintains that the moral law is not binding on Christians, under the “law of grace.” spec. One of a sect which appeared in Germany in 1535, alleged to hold this opinion. OED.

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {Ac 8:4-40}

4-6. Therefore those who were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ to them. And the people with one accord gave heed to those things which Philip spoke, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did.

We cannot tell how far the soil had been prepared for the sowing of the gospel seed by our Lord’s visit to Sychar, a city of Samaria. The influence of the converts in that place may have inclined the people of the city of Samaria to give all the more heed to the preaching of Philip. The work of a great and good man may seem sometimes to die out, but its effects remain, and extend beyond the place where he laboured.

7-11. For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and who were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city. But there was a certain man, called Simon, who previously in the same city used sorcery, and bewitched the people of Samaria, letting on that he himself was some great one: to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the great power of God.” And they had regard for him, because for a long time he bewitched them with sorceries.

He had managed to secure great influence over the people, and he held them under his wicked rule.

12-17. But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them: who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Spirit: (for as yet he was fallen on none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then they laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

So that miraculous gifts were bestowed on them. Of course, there was already revealed among them that divine operation of the Spirit of God, by which men are converted, and brought to faith in Christ; but they had not known the special, attesting, wonder-working power of the Spirit until the apostles came among them. So a good work was done, yet everything was not altogether as the apostles could have wished it to be.

18-26. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that on whomever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your money perish with you, because you have thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. You have neither part lot in this matter: for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of your wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. For I perceive that you are in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity.” Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of these things which you have spoken happen to me.” And they, when they had testified and preached the word of the Lord, returned to Jerusalem, and preached the gospel in many villages of the Samaritans. And the angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise, and go towards the south to the way that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, which is a desert.”

He must have wondered about receiving such an order as that. To be directed to go to a city, he could understand; but to be sent to a road which went through the desert, must have seemed strange to him; yet he obeyed his Lord’s orders.

27. And he arose and went:

Always do as you are told by your Lord. The first qualification for a good servant of Jesus Christ is immediate obedience.

27, 28. And, behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Isaiah the prophet.

He was a devout man, who was seeking rest of heart, but he could not find it. He had joined in all the solemn services of the Jewish faith, but as yet he had not discovered the great secret of eternal life. He was still searching for it; and as he rode along the rough road, he was reading the book of the prophet Isaiah.

29, 30. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near, and join yourself to this chariot.” And Philip ran there to him, and heard him read the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

That is the main thing; a religion that is not based on understanding will soon come to an end. An emotional religion — one that is nothing but emotion — will be temporary and transient religion; so Philip enquired of the eunuch, “Do you understand you what you are reading?”

31-34. And he said, “How can I, unless some man should guide me?” And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the Scripture which he read was this, “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so he did not open his mouth: in his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? For his life is taken from the earth.” And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, “Please, of whom is the prophet speaking? of himself, or of some other man?”

That was a very important question; it went to the very root of the matter. It was useless for him to read about some unknown person; he must know who it was of whom the prophet had written.

35. Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same Scripture, and preached to him Jesus.

You may begin anywhere in the Bible, and preach Jesus. You may begin at the first chapter of Genesis, or at the last chapter of Malachi, at the first chapter of Matthew or the last chapter of Revelation, and still preach Jesus, for he is the sum and substance of the whole Scripture.

36-40. And as they went on their way, they came to a certain water: and the eunuch said, “See, here is water; what hinders me from being baptized?” And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and both of them went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, so that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached —

See how he kept doing his one business wherever he might be, in Samaria, on the desert pathway, or in the town of Azotus: “He preached” —

40. In all the cities, until he came to Caesarea.

Oh, for the same earnest spirit to be in all of us who profess to be Christ’s followers, so that we may preach him wherever we may be!

Spurgeon Sermons

These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).

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Modernized Edition of Spurgeon’s Sermons. Copyright © 2010, Larry and Marion Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario, Canada. Used by Answers in Genesis by permission of the copyright owner. The modernized edition of the material published in these sermons may not be reproduced or distributed by any electronic means without express written permission of the copyright owner. A limited license is hereby granted for the non-commercial printing and distribution of the material in hard copy form, provided this is done without charge to the recipient and the copyright information remains intact. Any charge or cost for distribution of the material is expressly forbidden under the terms of this limited license and automatically voids such permission. You may not prepare, manufacture, copy, use, promote, distribute, or sell a derivative work of the copyrighted work without the express written permission of the copyright owner.

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